Tuesday, June 28, 2011

To understand the Bible you have to submit to it ...

There's an interesting piece in First Things arguing in favor of more literal Bible translations because more "interpretive" translations can distort the meaning of the text.

Part of the author's argument depends on the Protestant doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. In doing so, he quotes Wycliffe as follows:
Likewise, Wycliffe, for all his faith in the power of boys who drive plows to know their Bibles, makes it clear that Scripture exhibits its clarity only to those who undergo the lengthy intellectual discipline of submitting to its authority: “The faithful whom he calls in meekness and humility of heart, whether they be clergy or laity, male or female, bending the neck of their inner man to the logic and style of Scripture will find in it the power to labour and the wisdom hidden from the proud.” 

The whole piece is worth reading. You can find it here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why baptism IS a big deal ...

Craig Blomberg posted a piece on why baptism is really important at Denver Seminary's blog. Here's a choice quote to whet your appetite:

"My concern here is rather the inordinate number of young adults (and a few older ones) I meet these days who seem to think baptism is just no big deal ...  What a striking contrast from believers out of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and other religions in various parts of the world today who are completely ostracized by their families, not if they show an interest in following Jesus but if they "seal the deal" by means of baptism! What a striking contrast from believers past and present who occasionally have become targets for martyrdom, not if they merely profess some kind of commitment to Christ, but only after their public testimony in baptism! What an insult it is to their sacrifices to take this ordinance of our Lord so lightly!"
The rest of the post is here: http://www.denverseminary.edu/craig-blombergs-blog-new-testament-musings/baptisms-no-big-deal-is-it/.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Church's One Foundation

My most recent post got me to thinking ...

The foundations of human institutions are susceptible to erosion and collapse. But the church, which is the City of God, has eternal foundations and cannot be shaken (Heb 11:10, 12:27). In the words of the Apostle Paul, "For no-one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 3:11).

Or, in the words of the great hymn:

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.

She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses,
With every grace endued.

The Church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end:
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master’s hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.

O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the border mountains,
Where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains
Forever shall abide!

Friday, June 24, 2011

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?

I ran across this sad video today ...

Emerging Spiritualities in the American Church from Fuller Seminary on Vimeo.

The thing that saddened me was not the principals in the video, from whom I have learned to expect nothing more. Rather, the thing that disturbed me was the fact that the session was sponsored by Fuller Seminary.

It hasn't been so long since Fuller was a solidly evangelical seminary. It's a little shocking that things have so declined in the last 40ish years that this shallow, man-centered gabfest is supposed to pass for serious theological discussion.

Fuller's decline is testament to the fact that the church's most destructive enemies are always the enemies within. When the institutions in which we train our pastors loosen their grip on the faith once delivered to the saints in order to seek the approval of the wise of this present age, this is the inevitable result ...

A verse that comes to mind is "A little leaven leavens the whole lump ..." It's good to remember that the invisible church is still the Lord's and that He will preserve her until His coming despite all of the machinations of the Enemy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Compelling evidence that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses

I ran across these videos on Justin Taylor's blog last weekend. Dr. Peter Williams presents some really interesting analysis of details like the names and geography in the canonical gospels as compared with non-canonical gospels. And presents a very compelling case for the gospels being (as Christians contend) written by eyewitnesses, as opposed to (as critics such as Bart Ehrman allege) being written decades after the fact by non-eyewitnesses in far-flung locations.

I highly recommend them to your viewing ...

Sanctification is inevitable ... but how is it experienced?

This is a follow-up to this post, made this past Sunday.

When the theological statement is made that the truly justified are being sanctified, it's fairly common for people to react in one of the two following ways:

(1) I continually fall into sin "X", therefore I'm not being sanctified, therefore I must not be justified.
(2) I'm a Christian, therefore I'm justified, and if it's inevitable that I'll be sanctified, then I won't make any effort - I'll just wait until it happens.

Both of these reactions have in common that they reason invalidly from a true theological statement to untrue experiential conclusions. Let's unpack that more slowly:

For reaction (1) above, the person is looking at their present state of imperfection and trying to conclude something about their state of justification on the basis of that state of imperfection. But this reasoning is invalid, because justification is by faith in Christ alone, independent of works (Romans 3:28). In this life we will always be in a state of imperfection, so if we were to reason solely from the fact that we still see ourselves sinning we could conclude that no-one is justified. We do need to be a little careful here, though, because we're told in many places (e.g., 1 John 2:3-6, 3:3-6) that the one who is born of God does not continue to sin. Doesn't this mean that we should use our works to assess our state of salvation? Well, yes and no. When we sin (which we will do often - some might say continually), we will have one of two reactions: either to excuse ourselves or to judge ourselves, repent, and to cling to Jesus in faith that His sacrifice covers all sin. The process of sanctification is principally the process of becoming increasingly dependent on Jesus in faith and love.

Reaction (2) above makes the invalid assumption that because sanctification is inevitable that it therefore requires no effort. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are to make every effort (2 Peter 1:5-10) to "make our calling and election sure". But to what end should we be directing our effort? Is our sanctification a matter of works but our justification a matter of faith? God forbid! Our salvation is a matter of faith in Christ from beginning to end. We must look to Jesus and away from our radical self-dependency and our addiction to self-justification. As we place Jesus always before our eyes in faith and love (this is where our effort should be spent -- but paradoxically, true faith and love can only be produced by God!) and renounce ourselves and our desires, the Holy Spirit will bring forth the fruit of holiness and obedience to God.

May the Lord sanctify our hearts to pursue Him and His righteousness alone, forgetting what lies behind and pressing on for the prize of the upward call.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Perfected For All Time ...

"For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Heb 10:14

The doctrine of justification and sanctification are brought together in this remarkable verse. 

First, "He has perfected for all time ...". A single, definite, historical act has accomplished an eternal perfection.

But this act has accomplished this for "those who are being sanctified".  The verb tense here is present continual. Being sanctified is an ongoing process.

So, those who are being sanctified have been perfected for all time. This might appear at first to be a kind of contradiction. How can one be simultaneously perfected and still "being sanctified"?

A couple of possible answers:

(1) The end state is certain for those who are being sanctified. That is, Jesus initiated an inevitable process for those who are being sanctified. Said another way, "For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified." (Rom 8:29-30). Jesus will ensure that all of His people will persevere until the end.

(2) In this life, the fact of justification (i.e., the fact that a person has been made perfect) is made evident through the ongoing process of sanctification. That is, only those who are being sanctified are justified. That is, "if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." (Luke 9:23). The process of sanctification is the daily process of self-denial and the setting apart or dedication of the entire self to the use of our Lord.

In fact, these two explanations are related. The daily act of will that denies the self is rooted in a real faith that it's inevitable that God will complete the process that He's already begun. "And I am sure of this, that He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6).